Influencer marketing is now a serious consideration for many brands, and according to a report by Tomson, 59% of marketers are planning to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2016. 84% of marketing professionals worldwide are planning to start influencer marketing this year, and those who're already doing so have plans to prioritize it even more, according to Schlesinger Associates. The reason for this is that influencer marketing campaigns get results - the average earned media value (EMV) from US influencer marketing programs was 1.4 times higher in H1 2015 than the overall average in full-year 2014, based on data from RhythmOne.
Influencer marketing is more cost-effective than paid advertising and leads to more credible brand recommendations, which 92% of consumers are more likely to trust. For these reasons influencer marketing has arguably become the most effective, long term marketing strategy.
Also interestingly there has been a 76% increase in Google searches for "influencer marketing" since April 2013, underlining the increased demand.
Here are my 5 predictions for the future of influencer marketing:
1. Increased Focus on Employee Advocacy
31% of high-growth firms now have a formal employee advocacy program in place, according to a recent report conducted by Hinge and Social Media Today. More than ever, the future will see brands using employees as advocates in order to seek the trust and loyalty of their customers. Employees will be encouraged to share owned content, promote brand messages and target key accounts. These employees will become brand ambassadors and will also link to influential subject matter experts, helping to deliver and amplify your messages to the right people.
Such messages should be delivered in a unique and timely manner, and be specific about the value you are adding to their lives.
2. The Rise of Tier 2 Influencers - "The Power Middle"
Lower ranked influencers - also called tier 2 influencers or "the power middle" - can be very effective for any campaign, and are often easier to engage with. These tier 2 influencers are helpful in discovering rich sub-communities and can enable rapid scaling of influencer marketing campaigns. New influencer marketing software allows users to manage these influencers in a scalable way, the critical mass of which can exert great influence on a market.
We'll see these influencers play a significant role in future influencer marketing campaigns. By effectively combining tier 1 and tier 2 influencers, the strategy becomes scalable and will reach more people while utilizing the same resources.
3. Increased Demand for Authentic Influencers
With the rapid increase of professional and paid influencers, there'll also be an increase in demand for authentic influencers. We'll see a collaboration of both organic and paid influencer outreach. Targeting non-paid influencers will become an increasing challenge and will require more focus for the most successful outreach strategies, as subject matter experts and passionate individuals will be harder to engage.
4. Maturing of Influencer Marketing Tools
According to Forrester's recent report "Vendor Lanscape: Word-Of-Mouth Platforms", there are three distinct focuses for tools in the word-of-mouth category: customer advocacy platforms, employee advocacy platforms and category influencer platforms. These tools offer marketers a technology-driven approach to identifying and activating the right advocates or influencers, and then measuring the results. In the future these tools will mature, and the technology behind them will improve.
For example with the growing number of influencer databases and advancements in topic matching, it's now possible to use natural language algorithms to analyze the text in a PDF or a web page to build a signature. This signature can then be matched against signatures generated from actual tweets (a bit like how Shazam recognizes music). This generates even more targeted and relevant social influencer lists - in 2016 this technology will only get better as databases grow.
5. Increase in Cross-Channel Measurement
The most effective influencers will be delivering their content across multiple channels. Therefore it follows that we must be calculating influence on all social media channels in order to capture a true, multi-faceted measure of influence. In order to make up for the fact that not all channels will be of equal significance to certain campaigns, and some channels will spread messages further due to the number of active users, a weighting system will be needed to accurately measure an individuals cross-channel influencer score: